Jewish Service Zoom-bombed with Swastikas

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A malicious hacker disrupted a Jewish congregation's virtual prayer service to display symbols synonymous with anti-Semitism.

Temple Sinai in Hartford, Connecticut, was the target of the anti-Semitic attack that took place on July 10. The temple had been holding services online for several months to help slow the spread of COVID-19 around the state. 

After gaining access to a service being watched on Zoom and Facebook Live by roughly 200 congregation members, the hacker posted offensive messages and images on a shared screen.

The attack disrupted the recital of the Mourner's Kaddish, a sacred prayer spoken for the benefit of the departed soul of one's deceased father or mother.

Rabbi Jeffrey Bennett said the hacker used Zoom's annotate feature to post swastikas. They also shared inappropriate messages via the chat feature and commandeered the audio system to play traditional Jewish music called klezmer that originated in the villages and ghettos of Eastern Europe. 

Fortunately, the attacker was quickly stopped from spreading their message of hatred. As soon as he realized what was happening, Bennett stopped sharing his screen and a worship service co-host muted all service attendees. 

The attacker was silenced after just three seconds, but for Bennett the incident "was three seconds too long." 

After the temple's board of directors wrote a notice to congregants informing them of what had happened, the service continued without further incident. 

Bennett said the attack was the only anti-Semitic intrusion to occur since the Temple Sinai started holding services online in March 2020. He added that actions had been taken to prevent any further incidents from taking place.  

Rather than deterring congregation members from following their religious practice, the rabbi said the attack "strengthens our resolve to celebrate who we are."

An incident report has been filed with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) by temple leaders, who also sent a message to Zoom to inform them of the security breach. 

In May, the ADL reported that in 2019, Jews in America were targeted with more than 2,100 acts of anti-Semitic assault, vandalism, and harassment. The league said the number of incidents was the highest annual figure recorded since records began in 1979.

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